Fear-Mongering and Pseudoscience Sales Tactics

On May 14 a company which routinely bashes magnesium supplementation and sells supplements based on chelated calcium put up a piece entitled “Is magnesium contributing to eventing deaths?”.  This was on the heels of the tragic passing of a UK rider in a fall on a cross-country course.  I’ll skip all the pseudoscience that supposedly supported the headline and get to the punch line which was that magnesium affects the horse’s brain in a way which makes the horse anxious and clouds their judgment when on course.  Wow.  There is not one single shred of credible evidence, in any species, behind that claim.  Fortunately, the page was taken down five days later:  http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/equifeast-owner-apologises-linking-magnesium-eventing-deaths-536183

Those reasons are more than enough but also compounded by the fact it was nothing more than fear-mongering pseudoscience.

kool aid                                                       from: pando.com

This is far from the only example. A relatively benign but still outrageously misleading one is companies enticing you to buy XYZ product (e.g. flax seed) from them because it is non-GMO, when in reality all XYZ is non-GMO anyway.  Another uses non-GMO to rail against glyphosate when their product isn’t organic and will likely have trace levels of even more dangerous herbicides or pesticides.  There are companies that claim the world is so polluted it requires a completely different approach to feeding and supplementation which only they can provide, or they have a non-drug cure for a disease where there are no proven nonpharmacological treatments.  “Natural” dewormers.  Alternatives to vaccines or antibiotics.  All false and in some cases dangerous.

There are many excellent lists of  characteristics you can use to identify pseudoscience. Some of the best ways are:

  • Claims from a lone maverick working in isolation
  • “Proprietary” unpublished research; data that no one else has seen or evaluated
  • Heavy reliance on anecdotal/testimonial reports
  • Any criticism or questions labeled persecution, conspiracy or close-mindedness
  • Claims of unique insight, ingredients or methodology
  • Instead of showing solid proof, challenges others to prove the claim is wrong – basically unproven as false = true (when the reality is unproven = unproven; nothing more and nothing less).  This is known as a reverse burden of proof.  In actuality, the proof of a claim should rest squarely with the person making it.

If you are considering a product or service that raises any red flags, contact them and ask to see the published studies that support their claims.  If they don’t exist, ask to see the company’s own studies (not testimonials).  You might even find some useful information doing an internet search for the people behind the product.

There is a new company gearing up to charge $125 for a genetic test that claims to identify a risk factor for Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy type 2 or one that makes type 1 horses more likely to show symptoms. None of this work has been published or validated while multitest genetic screens for diseases which actually have been correctly identified and proven run in the neighborhood of $50.  To add insult to injury, searching for the principal person behind the company readily brings up presentations to start up groups where he refers to horse owners as “a niche market with a lot of money to burn”.  Nice, huh?

Caveat emptor.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

About Dr. Kellon

Graduate of University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions, www.drkellon.com, industry and private nutritional consultations, online nutritional courses. Staff Veterinary Expert at Uckele Health and Nutrition.
This entry was posted in Equine Nutrition and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Fear-Mongering and Pseudoscience Sales Tactics

  1. Thank you for this interesting article, l will however point out that there is a great deal of scientific data available on the natural Wormer Diatomaceous Earth. It is however, all American and based on the Only DE to use, that being Perma-guard. Results from two horses recently tested Nil Worms. The other horse in the paddock which was not given DE. Yes she had worms.

    • uckeleequine says:

      If you have references to actual scientific studies please let me know what they are. DE loses its effectiveness when wet. Since intestinal contents are the consistency of soup, it is hard to even imagine how it would work inside the horse. It’s not unusual for healthy adult horses to have negative egg counts. Also not unusual to have one in a group that does tend to run positive fecal egg counts while the others are negative.

      There are several different ways DE could be studied but the simplest place to start would be to take a group of horses with documented high egg counts, treat half with DE and half with either nothing or a dewormer paste and repeat fecal egg counts in 10 to 14 days. The horses must stay in their same environment.

  2. Jo says:

    This applies to the HeV vaccine and the crap being sprouted about Coles and woollies cheap milk too.

  3. Joe Sibiski says:

    This wonderful little article has the widest of possible applications. Pick any political or ideological debate, and just plug them in. If anything deserves to go viral, it is this little germ.

  4. journey5956 says:

    Thank you for the excellent article. I have remained in several FB groups for the sole purpose of trying to point out some dangerous misconceptions and statements. I am not a vet, but I do a lot of research online and I am amazed at several large websites which promote total untruths – including one by a vet which is even more dangerous. I’m saving this post so that I can post it again when fiction becomes greater than truth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s